Could Eugene Amano be the Tennessee Titans’ Ace-In-The-Hole?
Dec 4, 2011; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Tennessee Titans center Eugene Amano (54) on the bench during the game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
I know many Titans fans just cringed like hearing nails being raked on a chalkboard when reading that. But let’s stop to smell the roses for a second, or at least caress their thorns.
It has been the assumption of most that the Titans are going to cut Amano and his $4M base salary due this year. Coach Mike Munchak has also made it clear that they wouldn’t make changes to the roster until their replacement was already under contract. The majority of pundits and fans alike believe that Chance Warmack or Johnathan Cooper should or will be the next Tennessee Titan with the 10th overall pick in the draft. The depth signings of interior linemen Rob Turner and Chris Spencer haven’t fooled anyone into thinking that a starting right guard isn’t a need for the Titans. But I do think the general public feels the urgency at the position more than the coaching staff.
Mike Munchak is a Hall of Fame lineman and currently has his good friend and fellow Hall of Fame lineman, Bruce Matthews as the offensive line coach. The two of them have spent years training and developing many mid to late round draft picks, and turning them into starters in the NFL. While ignoring the offensive line issues ended up being a major downfall of the Titans season, I believe the coaches would also point out the inordinate amount of injuries that befell the position group in the second half of the season. The pass protection was good in the beginning of the year even though the run blocking was horrible for the second straight year. Once injuries began to accumulate, everything just fell apart.
Eugene Amano hasn’t been retained solely because his replacement isn’t on the roster. He hasn’t been cut because he may not have a replacement. Here’s the reasons why:
- While he was a part of a deficient interior line grouping, he wasn’t the only culprit. The belief is that much of his shortcomings previously were due to the poor play around him as well. Leroy Harris and Jake Scott’s play went from mediocre to bad in 2011 as the interior line struggled as a whole.
- Coach Mike Munchak felt comfortable enough with Amano to enter last year with him as the starting Center. If not for a torn triceps before the start of the season, he would have started over Velasco.
- Amano started at Guard the year Chris Johnson broke 2,000 yards rushing. Putting a healthy Amano, that has swing capabilities, between Velasco and Stewart might improve his play by not having to pick up the slack of those around him.
- While the $4M in base salary is high, he would only save the Titans about $1.8M in cap savings due to a prorated bonus. If retained, I would expect them to restructure this contract.
- Amano is a Munchak disciple. He was a seventh round pick in 2004 and has been under Munchak’s tutelage ever since. He started for 2 years after filling in for Jacob Bell at Left Guard before moving over to take over for Kevin Mawae at Center. They obviously have faith in him.
Now I’m not saying that Amano is penciled in as the starting right guard of the Tennessee Titans. What I am saying is that the coaching staff has more faith in him than the general public or the pundits on TV. Having Amano on the roster gives the coaches options as the draft unfolds. If the right player falls to them at #10 that they desperately want, they can afford to wait until later in the draft for a Guard. At best, having Amano gives the Titans the safety net needed to trade back and still hope either Warmack or Cooper fall to them at a later spot.
Don’t hate me for pointing this out.
You can find me on Twitter @gunnelsj